It was a huge shock to everyone around me when I decided to become a missionary in 2016. Having come out of 6 years of deep addiction before entering 3 rehabs, I was the last person you’d expect to see at YWAM Tyler.
I was totally living for myself, and thought I was the center of the universe back in May of 2015 before I entered my last rehab. I finally brought myself to a point of surrender about four weeks into that program when I felt God’s love for me for the first time. It was game-over after that! I was hooked.
I experienced the emotion of “love” for the first time in June of 2015. Prior to that encounter, I was so consumed with myself that I did not ever really love, or allow myself to be loved. Everyone and everything around me was a resource to get whatever I was looking to gain in the moment. My self-absorbed life stifled love from every crevice and corner of my life, which God describes as the greatest emotion, even amongst Faith and Hope (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Something changes when we allow ourselves to be stripped before God. No mask, no pre-supposition that I know God already, but real, vulnerable openness to a Savior. What I am describing is the moment that changed everything for me. A true encounter with God can accomplish what one hundred counseling sessions could not.
After I graduated from Shiloh May 20, 2016, I joined my first training school at YWAM Tyler. I am grateful to be discipled with YWAM, a mission that understands knowing God is paramount. Understanding that I am His child is vital. All else hinges on this realization. A truth I have walked through which no one can discount is this, “you don’t really know yourself until you know Jesus.” Finally understanding that in spite of me, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) is a remarkably freeing statement.
While I was still self-centered, caring for no one, stealing, and lying–Jesus died for me! He didn’t die for the Anthony that is living now, He died so I would have the opportunity to live now. I love Jesus and do my best to genuinely love the people around me, but he died for the version of me that cared neither for myself, or the people around me.
Whether I am still roaming the streets with a pint of vodka in my belt strap, or I am preaching in front of thousands, Jesus’s love for me is the same! It never changes. I am a child of God irregardless, therefore striving to achieve is stripped from my personal expectations because the ultimate definition of success, or what the Bible calls “eternal life” is this, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and the one whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
If you believe that there is something after death, or that there is a heaven or hell, then this verse is the road map from point A to point B. Each time I read this verse it chips away at the block of religion that has crusted up around me through years of never actually encountering and pursuing God for myself.
Knowing God, really knowing Him is what life is all about. To know God, and to make Him known. This is the motto of Youth With A Mission, the international missions organization I serve with. Not only is this our mission statement, it is also the first two of our 18 foundational values, “To know God (1)”, and “To make Him known (2)”. I love the simplicity of this direction, because when you boil it all down, it is what life is really all about.
Now do we just spend our time alone in a room, with a Bible and a cup of coffee? Heavens no! James says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). Such a confident statement that my personality appreciates!
I love being active, pursuing, and creating alongside God for His name’s sake. Reading verses like this in the Bible which promote living a life that exemplifies the relationship you have with Jesus is water to my soul! Prior to coming to YWAM I thought all missionaries were old, white, married couples. I thought the wife wore a bonnet (no slight to bonnet wearers!) and the husband had spent years in seminary and pastoral training. The thought of becoming a missionary wasn’t in the solar system of my thought process, but boy did that change after coming to YWAM Tyler.
I was startled running into a former X-Games athlete, meeting men and women that struggled with addiction, divorcees, hearing from people that struggled with eating disorders, vanity, homosexuality, the list could go on. And these were seasoned missionaries that had been around the world several times over, impacting lives every step of the way.
1 Corinthians 1:27 came alive, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” That was me! That was these people!? How could this be?
It is all possible because of what I described about, Knowing God. Out of an overflow of intimacy with a living God our life begins to move. You see a true faith—a living faith—has the natural outworking of good works. And good works—no matter how good—can’t produce authentic faith. Faith is always a gift and never earned. It begins in that moment which you will never forget, and works its way out each day.
If you are ready to take the next step in your personal life of Knowing God and Making Him known, today is the day to sign up for the next training school at YWAM Tyler. We are here and ready to help you discover God's purpose for your life.
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